"Is Our Children Learning?"
"Most young Americans entering university this year can't write in cursive, think email is too slow, that Beethoven's a dog and Michelangelo a computer virus, according to an annual list compiled by two academics at a US college.
To students who will get their bachelor's degrees in 2014, Czechoslovakia has never existed, Fergie is a pop singer, not a duchess; Clint Eastwood is a sensitive movie director, not Dirty Harry; and John McEnroe stars in TV ads, not on the tennis court, Beloit College's "Mindset" list says.
The Mindset list was first compiled in 1998, for the class of 2002, by Beloit humanities professor Tom McBride and former public affairs director Ron Nief.
It was intended as a reminder to faculty at the university that references quickly become dated, but quickly evolved to become a hugely popular annual list that gives a snapshot of how things have changed, and chronicles key cultural and political events that have shaped a generation.
In the first Mindset list, McBride and Nief found that youngsters born in 1980 had ever known only one pope - Polish-born John Paul II, who was elected to the papacy in 1978 and died in 2008.
For the class of 2003 -- born in 1981 and featured on the 1999 Mindset list -- Yugoslavia never existed and they were puzzled why Solidarity was sometimes spelled with a capital S.
Solidarity with a capital S was the first and only independent trade union in the Soviet bloc. It was created in 1980 and went on to negotiate in 1989 a peaceful end to communism in Poland, making the country the first to escape Moscow's grip.
Nief and McBride take a year to put the list together, gathering outside contributions and poring over journals, literary works, and the popular media from the year of the incoming university students' birth.
"Then we present the ideas to every 18-year-old whose attention we can get and we wait for the 'mindset moment' -- the blank stare that comes back at you that makes you realize they have no idea what you're talking about," Nief told AFP.
Those moments make it onto the list, alongside interesting historical snippets like the fact that since the class of 2004 was born in 1982, all but one national election in the United States has had a candidate in it named George Bush."